It’s not everyday that teenagers willingly go without food and smile about it, but that was exactly our experience at last week’s 30 Hour Famine! Keep reading to get a quick recap of what we did and said throughout our 24 hours together. And if you are a student, parent, or leader, please give us some feedback about the Famine!
Here’s the first thing you need to know about the Famine: it was only possible with the help of Alex Aiello, Catherine Bragg, Diana Merrifield, Grace Cain, Greg O’Brien, Hunter Busse, Jon Ridgway, Julie Alexander, Maggie Thwaites, Marya Howell, and Rob Collier. They slept over, made dinner, schlepped sandwiches, walked 3 miles in the cold, and more! I’m so thankful for such an incredible volunteer team. Now, on to the recap!
Friday Night We started off in DCPC’s chapel to introduce the Famine and rules and expectations, but also the idea that it would be okay to be uncomfortable for the next 24 hours. In fact, Nic (Davidson United Methodist’s Director of Youth Ministries) told us that we only grow when we leave our comfort zone. Sure, we’re comfortable in our comfort zone, but we’re pulled and stretched in new ways that lead to growth when we leave it. Going with less or no food is one of the ways God can get our attention and help us to understand the experience of the hungry and also to draw closer to God.
After that we played some Capture the Flag on campus as a way for the members of the two churches to mix and get to know each other. We then made our way over to DUMC to make sandwiches for Urban Ministry Center. We made 500 sandwiches, which seems like a lot, but UMC daily gives away 800 sandwiches to Charlotte’s homeless and hungry. After that we made our beds and settled in to catch the start of Wonder Woman as everyone drifted off to sleep.
Saturday Morning & Afternoon After waking up, we packed up the buses and vans and headed down to Urban Ministry Center to deliver the sandwiches. UMC was also very accommodating and took us on a quick tour that gave us a bit of their history, what they offer to the city’s hungry and homeless, and what they have planned. From there we split the group into two. Both groups would take turns with two different activities: an urban hike and an hour at the 24/7 Prayer Room. The urban hike began at the UMC and took in the Men’s Shelter and some other local areas where the poor and hungry go in Charlotte. Cameron (DUMC’s Assistant Youth Director & Contemporary Worship Director) led the hike and called attention to the challenges the homeless face and what the city and it’s ministries/NGOs are doing about them. One of the hikers commented that she had done something similar before, but it was a totally different (and more meaningful) experience with an empty stomach.
24/7 is dedicated prayer space in the heart of Charlotte and is pretty hard to explain. Instead, here are some pictures of just a few of the various prayer stations that invite us to listen and speak to God in creative ways:
Students and leaders were very moved by their encounters with God in 24/7 and the hour passed very quickly for both groups.
Saturday Afternoon/Evening We got back to DCPC with energy reserves very, very low. Wonder Woman was resumed and enjoyed as the countdown to dinner began in earnest. With about an hour to go until dinner, we got ready to start to process our experience over the last day. We met all together for Big Group, quickly summarized here:
Introduction In Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor tells Diana about something his father said: “If you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something.” At some point during the day, each of us had seen something that we knew was wrong and we probably felt that we needed to do something about it.
Tension But why should we do something rather than nothing? We know it’s the right thing to do, but doing something almost always requires a sacrifice. Why should we sacrifice?
Truth Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God created us to do something. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the world and part of God’s plan for setting things right is to send God’s children into the world with the desire and ability to fix some of it. That includes all of us!
Application Pope Francis challenges each of us to “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave.” That about sums it up: God made each of us to care about different things, but we all need to be brave to do something rather than nothing.
We then broke up into smaller groups to talk through these ideas, the invitations God sent us, and share about where we saw God at work during the day. After that, we feasted on a simple meal of beans and rice, walked over to DUMC, and ended our time together in worship.
Personal Reflection What you just read was not Plan A. In fact, we lost Plan A about 10 days before the Famine started and Nic, Cameron, and I basically had to start our planning all over again, but with the added urgency of finding a Saturday service project in a town where those projects are snatched up months in advance and usually limited to older teens. Those 10 days were incredibly stressful and I was sick through all of them, but at a certain point on Saturday, I realized that our improvised Plan B was much better than Plan A would have been. Instead of just talking about hunger and learning about it from a distance, our students were meeting hungry people and going the places they went. You can’t beat the perspective-changing power of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and that was a definite game-changer for the Famine. It also gave us a chance to walk in Jesus’s shoes (sandals?) as well as we saw the impact of Christ’s followers on the heart-breaking things going on just down the street.
Here’s another thing I love: our high school girls put their heads together and came to me with a plan to make sandwiches once a month at Youth Group. I. Love. This. It’s so easy to be paralyzed by the enormity of the problem that hunger presents, but these girls heard God’s invitation to do something instead of nothing and went after it. So, get ready: Sandwich Sundays start February 25th!